Ethnic Folk Costumes


Figure 1.--Although little seen as state schools, most private schools in Scotland incourage the boys to wear kilts for special occasions and promote Highland dancing.

Some clothing styles are strongly associated with ethnic groups. In many cases there are interesting cultural and or climatic reasons for the development of these styles. The Lapps of Norway, for example needed warm clothes in their Arctic envirnment. The origins of other styles are lost in time, but are often assocaited with styles in specific historical periods. In most cases these folk costumes no longer widely worn in the various countries. They do appear in folk festivals are may even be be incorportated into dress wear for formal occasions. Often ethnic costumes reflect national costumes. Most ethnic costumes can not be neatly categorized by countries or other political units. Some ethnic groups like the Lapps or Kurds find themselves in many different countries. Some countries or empires have many different ethnic groups. Some religious groups maintain some destinctive costumes or hair styles in many different countries.

Ethnic Associations

Some clothing styles are strongly associated with specific ethnic groups. In many cases there are interesting cultural and or climatic reasons for the development of these styles. The Lapps of Norway, for example needed warm clothes in their Arctic envirnment. The rise of such destinctive styles adopted by different groups and their survival to the modern day is an interesting phenomenon and commonly difficult to explain. The origins of many styles are lost in time, but are often assocaited with styles in specific historical periods.

Garments and Styling

There are a few folk garments that are strongly associated with certain etnic groups. The best example is the kilt which is strongly associated with Scotland. Other folk outfits are more likely to emvolve styling and detailing rather than specific garments. Here folk costume attract the attention with destinctive styling, often garments that look old fashioned and are done in striking colors or detailing like emproidery or bright ribbons to give a gay, festive effect. The variety and types of styling are virtually limitless.

Usage

In most cases these folk costumes no longer widely worn in the various countries. They do appear in folk festivals are may even be be incorportated into dress wear for formal occasions. Often ethnic costumes reflect national costumes. Most ethnic costumes can not be neatly categorized by countries or other political units. Some ethnic groups like the Lapps or Kurds find themselves in many different countries. Some countries or empires have many different ethnic groups. Some religious groups maintain some destinctive costumes or hair styles in many different countries. Some countries have incorporated elements of modern dress into modern clothing. German boys in Bavaria might, for example, have a Bavarian-styled jacket they wear when dressing up. Scottisboys may have kilts which are worn when dressing up or as part of school or Scout uniforms.

Cultural History

Folk culture is an important part of the cultural history of every country. It is bearer of the of the customs and social traditions of the ancestors of modern people. Much of thisis difficult to recreate in the modern world. One aspect of folk traditions that can be recreated is traditional dress which in our modern world become folk costumes. The costumes may provide insigts into national life, not only clothing but aesthetic values as well. Here there has to be detinctions drawn. Some modern folk costumes are based on the clothing formerly worn in an historical period. Others seem to be more modren creations of a people anxious to reinvent their past.

National Costumes

We note a wide variety of folk costumes worn bu peoples around the world. At the present time we have more information on Europe than other regions, but we hope to gradually expand our coverage of national folk costuming.

American: Latin


American: North


American

America has a wide diversity of ethnic clothes. The most Well known is the clothing of native Americans. Although the native American costumes are now no widely worn daily, they are worn at the native American pow-wows and other events heald around the country. Other ethnic costumes are mostly worn for ethnic events based on the ethnic costumes of the various costumes from which emmigrants came. There are a few exceptions such as the Amish who do wear their destimctive dress for every day wear.

Asian


Chinese

China is the largest country in terms of population and one of the largest countries in terms of area. Not only is the country spread over many rehions and provinces, but it comprises many different ethnic and language groups. The Han people of China proper are the dominate ethnic group, but they are a large number of national and ethnic minorities with destinctive cultural and religious experiences. One Chinese reader tells us that there are 56 destinctive groups in China. This diversity is reflected in a rich tradition of folk art, dance, dress, music, and and other cultural aspects. An important part of Chinese folk art is embroidery and costume. In modern China these folk costumes are more for festivals and special occassions than everyday dress. We have very limited infornmation at this time on the extent and diversity of these folk costumes. In addition we often lack specific information about boys' styles in the various Chinese folk costumes.

Japan

We note the Japanese wearing a range of folk costumes. It used to be common for some women to wear folk costumes rather than Western dress, but this has become less common, both because Japanese women are becoming more modern and the cost of folk outfits. Customs vary widely from family to family. Some families wear folk costumes for relaxing at home. This seems to be more adults than children. Families are, however, likely to dress children in traditional costumes for special events. We also notive boys and mennwearing folk costumes for the many different festivals held in cities throughout Japan. Here it is the men aznd boys that are more likely to dress up in variously styled folk costumes.

Malaysia

Malaysian children love to dress in traditionl outfits for mational festivals. Malay newpapers report that Hari Raya is one of the most popular national festivals. Children reportedly live it up sporting their new baju Raya. Children have worn tradidional clothes, but some now choose instead to wear trendy jeans and skirts to match colorful shirts and blouses.

Tajikistan

We have some information on traditional Tajik clothing. We note Tajik boys for ceremonial occassions wearing long coat-like garment, but I am not sure what it is called. Tajik traditional clothing looks to be heavily embroidered. The Tajik spring celebration is called Navrus today. People often wear traditional costumes for this and other special occassions. It is a velvet outfit worn by boys and men. Mother makes it at home. So the designs vary widely and come in different sizes. Student who normally wear Western clothing, often uniforms to school, sometimes come to school in traditional clothing for special occassions. Boys might wear long embroidered robes with matching trousers and white velvet shirt. There is also ornate head wear. We noted that in Dunshanbe and other cities that children wear mostly Western clothes for day to day wear. We thought that traditional clothing might be more common in rural areas, but even in rural areas, Western clothing is very common, althogh not as trendy as in the city (figure 1). Even in rural areas, traditional clothing is mostly worn on ceremonal occasions. The girls and women seem to wear traditional costume more commonly than boys and men. This gender difference is epecially pronounced in rural areas.

European

European folk costumes are very diverse, but share a variety of common characteristics because of the common European historical and technological experiences. Most folk costumes are based on styles that were formerly widely worn. Just what is discarded and what is saved over time to become frozen as folk costumes is a usually poorly undrstood process. Our knowledge of costuming outside of a few civilizations such as Greece and Rome is limited. Thus we know little about the earliest forms of dress. It is likely that geographical environment and climatic conditions were especially important in this early period. We begin to know more by the medieval period. The dress of both men and women may have had originally a shirlike shape. Some of the underwear and upper dress might have been worn by both men and women. Not only do we know more about dress in the medieval era, but it seems that clothing began to acquire the garment forms and styles that we now recognize. In the early medieval period dress was affected by the basic materials, flax or hempen linen, drapery or fur. In lowlands clothing was rather loose and linen while in mountaineous regions it was more tight-fitting and besides linen, made also of wool and fur. As textile technology developed, especially by the 18th century home-spun textiles began to be replaced with industrial materials from cotton, wool and even silk began to be used. The new materials meant that many changes in forms and styles were possible. The variety of materials combined with increasing availability of colored garments to the averahe person resulted in many of the styles which are now seen as folk costumes. Another development which is now a major aspect of folk costuming is the appearance of embroidering technique (17th century) and the increasing availbility of reasonably priced colored cotton thread.

Oceania








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Created: September 29, 1998
Last updated: 11:12 PM 3/12/2012